THIRTEENTH CENTURY - THE CROWN OF THORNS ON THE MEMBERS OF THE CHURCH
In the history of Christianity the thirteenth century is very illustrious for sanctity, learning and active zeal for the propagation of the Christian religion. Several Religious Orders were instituted about this time, and rapidly spread in different parts of Europe, flourishing in sanctity, and producing abundant fruits of holiness and sound knowledge. It is sufficient to mention the two famous Religious Orders, the Dominican and Franciscan, which seem to have been destined by God to illustrate the earth with the burning charity of the Seraphim, and the wisdom of the Cherubim. St. Dominic and St. Francis of Assisi, St Thomas of Aquin and St. Bonaventure, St. Antony of Padua, St. Hyacinth of Poland, St. Raymund de Pennafort, St. Peter Martyr, B. Albertus Magnus, St. Clare, St. Elizabeth of Hungary, St. Margaret of Cortona, were members of these two Orders, and all illustrated this century with their sanctity, and many by their great learning. Forty more Saints who have since been raised to the honors of the altar, could be mentioned at the head of whom we find St. Peter Celestine, Pope, St. Louis King of France, St. Ferdinand, King of Castile, Spain, St. Margaret, Princess of Hungary, St. Isabel, virgin daughter of Louis VIII, King of France. Moreover, there are twenty-four saints and servants of God who, since St. Francis of Assissi, have been stigmatized or received the Crown of Thorns. This splendid galaxy of eminent saints and learned doctors, is more than sufficient to demonstrate, that the thirteenth century cannot be relegated to the gloom of the so-called dark ages.
In mentioning more particularly the Religious Orders of St. Dominic and of St. Francis, we had a special object in view. In the long catalogue of one hundred and fifty or sixty saints and servants of God, who have been honored by our Lord with a particular share of the sufferings of his sacred passion and crown of thorns, we shall find that by far the vast majority belonged to these two illustrious Orders.
We are told that the Seraphic Patriarch St. Francis received from our crucified Lord the impressions of his five wounds in order that through five red tongues of fire, and by the voice of living blood, he should preach to a proud, carnal and selfish world, the sublime mystery of his sacred passion. The Church, in the prayer for the feast instituted to commemorate the impressions of the stigmata of this admirable Saint, on the 17th of September says: "Lord Jesus Christ, who in this cold world, hast renewed the sacred stigmas of thy passion in the body of the most blessed Francis, to inflame our heart with the fire of thy love; vouchsafe through his merits and prayers to grant that we may ever carry thy cross, and bear worthy fruits of penance."
In compiling the following list of at least fifty saints and eminent servants of God, the majority of whom, besides the crown of thorns, have also received the stigmata of the five wounds, we make from our heart the same prayer for ourselves and for all our pious readers. May our Lord inflame our hearts with the flames of his divine love and enlighten our minds to understand and appreciate the sublime mystery of his crown of thorns, through the intercession of his holy servants who participated in these special sufferings.
1. Blessed Emilia Bicchieri
Blessed Emily or Emilia Bicchieri is the first on the list of those who are known to have received on the head, the miraculous impression of the crown of thorns. She was born May 3rd 1238, about one year before the real crown of thorns of our Savior arrived in Paris. When very young, Emilia became a member of the third Order of St. Dominic. An ardent devotion for the passion of our Lord, and a burning love for penance characterized her life. Blessed Emilia died May 3rd, 1278 being exactly forty years of age. It is a remarkable circumstance that, on May 3rd the date of the birth and death of B. Emilia, the church celebrates the feast of the finding of the holy cross of our Lord. This holy servant of God was born and died in the city of Vercelli, Piedmont, Italy. May she obtain from God the conversion of the present Duke of Piedmont, King of Sardinia, usurper of Italy and the perfect triumph of our holy religion in her native country and in the whole world. (See Bollandist's Acta Sanctorum Appendix. May 3rd)
2. Blessed Christina de Stumbelle
The Bollandists, a high authority in these matters, enumerate Christina among the beatified servants of God. She is surnamed de Stumbelle, from the place of her birth, a village about six miles from the ancient city of Cologne on the Rhine, Germany. She was born July 24th, 1242. This great servant of God became a Nun of the Order of St. Dominic. In obedience to Father Peter of Dacia of the same Order, she humbly related to him that, on Thursday in Passion Week, 1267, less than twenty-seven years after the arrival of the real Crown of Thorns at Paris, she received from our Lord the impression of the Crown of Thorns, and on the following Thursday night in Holy Week, she suffered the agony and sweat of blood followed by the Stigmata of the five wounds on the next day, which was Good Friday. These sensible and visible sufferings of the passion were repeated every subsequent year, in Holy Week until her death which occurred in the month of June 1312. The body of this holy religious was buried at Niedeck, and many miracles were wrought through her intercession.
About the close of the sixteenth century, these precious relics were transferred to Juliers, when a new prodigy was discovered. It was found that a green crown about an inch large was miraculously formed on the front of her skull and gradually extending right and left round the head, converging towards the occiput. Father Steinfunder wrote to Father Papebrok, the famous Bollandist and editor of the life of blessed Christina, that he went to visit in the year 1685, the head of this wonderful saint, and saw the miraculous crown reaching to the ears. Seven years later, namely in 1692, the same Father returned to Juliers to venerate a second time this sacred relic. The miraculous crown was visibly extending round the virginal head, and it was sprinkled with red drops like blood, which vividly called to mind the Crown of Thorns, which this admirable saint endured during her life. This prodigy is also mentioned in her biography written in the German language by Rev. Peter Lulle, parish priest of Juliers and published in Cologne 1689. (See Bolland. Acta s. s. 2 22d Jun. De Beata Christina . Stumbleri etc.) May she pray for her sorely afflicted country, and for the speedy conversion or humiliation of all the enemies and persecutors of our most holy Religion, especially in Germany and Switzerland.